WHEN DECK D’ARCY AND HIS BANDMATES in Phoenix set out to create their 5th studio album, Bankrupt!, they were hoping to write and record everything within a three-month span. After two years of jumping back and forth from studios in Paris and New York, purchasing the mixing console that was used to record Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and scrapping and rewriting material numerous times, the album is finally completed— just a shade past deadline.
| d'Arcy is far left.
But rather than falling idle in that long span, d’Arcy spent his time beefing up his electric and synth-bass riffs to fit the mold of his band’s shifting sound. While the new album dabbles in an array of genres including pop, funk, and indie-alternative, d’Arcy met that diversity by showcasing a rotating palette of fingerstyle playing, muted picking, and multi-synth layering. His preferred method of blending electric and synth bass is booming on songs like “Entertainment” and “Trying to Be Cool.”
From his early years in France playing shows with the members of Daft Punk and Air in his hometown of Versailles to playing sold out arenas, d’Arcy has shown a tremendous evolution as a bass player and songwriter, although he’d certainly be the last to admit it.
How did you approach writing for this album?
For us, some songs don’t have an electric bass part, but they’ll have a synth, and other songs won’t have guitar but they’ll have a lot of bass. It’s all very random; there’s no formula or precise goal to it. We just try to make the song go where it wants to. We go for emotion more than a formula.
You play a lot of synth bass on this album.
I write a lot of bass lines with the keyboard, and then I play them with a bass live, because it’s just cooler that way. In the studio I record the synth bass part and then track it again with a bass to get big tone. The song “1901” is an example of this. I love the sound of doubling the bass, and we do it quite a bit on this album.
Which playing techniques did you use?
I used both my fingers and a pick to play. When the tempo rises above 150 BPM, I use a pick. It’s not necessarily because I can’t play fast with my fingers, I just naturally think that a pick sounds better for faster stuff . I learned both ways when I was younger, and I like using both. They both have very different sounds, and they even bring forward different emotion when you hear them.
How do you feel you’ve matured as a bassist to this point?
I think I still play the bass the same way I did when I was 16 years old. I don’t really know what I’m doing ever, but sometimes it works [laughs]. We barely know the chords or the names of the notes, and we never learned scales. We never put a lot of importance on the way we play our instruments; it’s more about the ideas and the purpose. If I’ve gotten good at bass it is only because of how long I’ve been doing it.
Who are your greatest bass influences?
As a bass player, I’ve never really focused on just bass players; I appreciate the music at a whole. I love John Paul Jones, but it’s not John that I love, it’s Led Zeppelin. I don’t have idols on bass or on a specific instrument; the group has to be good. That’s the whole point of being in a band in the first place—to create something bigger than one person.
Phoenix, Bankrupt! [V2, 2013]
Bass 1971 Fender Mustang Bass
Rig Ampeg SVT head and 8x10 cabinet
Synths Korg Trident MK1, Yamaha CS80
Effects Custom fuzz pedal (Made by his tech)